Social Impact Heroes: Why & How AJ Sarcione of ‘Get Your Shine’ Is Helping To Change Our World

I feel as though I got lucky with this one. I felt the pressure to “succeed” in my 20’s, but I knew to take risks. Those risks make me stronger today, but had someone given me more permission to not worry so much, maybe I would’ve taken even bigger risks.

Aspart of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing AJ Sarcione.

AJ Sarcione is an international motivational speaker, intentional communications coach and corporate culture consultant, author, and the creator of the personality quiz The Shine Scale™. His goal is to help people accelerate success and smile more as a result. As the founder of Get Your Shine, he believes ‘it takes simply one spark to ignite your path to success.’ He has lived out two major dreams and found accelerated success in his career and life from engaging the characteristics of shine. While being intentional about what he wanted, he welcomed it showing up in life in the way it was meant to — something he calls Unintentional Perfection. He works with people and companies to advance careers, advance teams, and advance lives. AJ built his career in branding and communications, working closely with C-suite execs from Fortune 50 companies to start-ups. Prior to his work with Get Your Shine, he is credited with establishing and leading internal marketing at Yahoo, and following the company’s acquisition from Verizon, he was the head of mojo. Instagram: @ajsarcione Linked In: /ajsarcione

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for letting me be a part of your series! As I peel back the layers of what I’m building, I find many moments in my life that have helped lay the foundation for my work today. I’ll share three of those moments — one has to do with Whitney Houston, another with significant career growth in a short period of time, and the last is a moment when I first realized how much I want to make people smile.

When I was younger, my dream was to sing with Whitney Houston. I’d sing around the house with headphones on, dreaming of a day when Whitney and I would sing together. Years later I went to her concert and was lucky enough to sit up front. As she performed, I sang along, and it was if my dream was coming true. At one point, Whitney stopped her concert. She told everyone to quiet down because she wanted them to hear something. She walked over to me and pulled me up on stage and next thing I know, I’M SINGING WITH WHITNEY HOUSTON! My dream was coming true. It was different than I had pictured it, but it was happening. I lived out an actual dream of mine.

Cut to many years later, I’ve left my corporate job to pursue music again (with the encouragement of the people at MTV, with whom I had been working with). I was doing some amazing things with singing, but I wasn’t making any money. Eventually, I decided going back to my communications career was probably a smart move. I found myself a great job making six figures at a startup. Shortly after I got a job at Yahoo, and with hard work, I received a promotion, then another, and was given an opportunity to create and lead internal marketing, overseeing employee experience. After Verizon bought us, I became the head of mojo and got another promotion. Looking back, I went from making no money to earning a great salary and growing it by 450%.

During my time in that role at Yahoo, we were going through some activist investor moments, which turned into an acquisition, and I could see the strain that it was putting on people. When I was asked what I wanted to do at the company, I replied: “I want to make people smile again.” That’s what pushed me to work hard to create and build the team I was able to, which drove employee experience globally, and we saw the smiles come alive.

So, to get to the point, why these three things? When I left my job to begin consulting and coaching, I went off to Hawaii to do some self-discovery work (and ultimately wrote a book and created an assessment tool called The Shine Scale™). What I found was, singing with Whitney happened because I was exuding passion and joyful energy, but I had control over myself. I wasn’t begging her to have me sing with her. And from all of that, she felt comfortable and compelled to welcome me to sing with her.

Then with the career growth, I found that it was my personality that helped me gain the promotions and the opportunity to create what I wanted to. I strived for excellence and leveraged my emotional intelligence, and realized that this wasn’t the first time. This was something I had done throughout my career and it had rewarded me many times.

As for helping make people smile — it’s still what I am seeking to do today. It could be a leader and their team, a parent and their child, or anyone who is willing to do the work to bring out what’s in them so they can be a more intentional communicator and shine. When shine occurs, success is accelerated, and who doesn’t smile when that happens?

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I moved from LA to a ranch outside of Dallas / Fort Worth, leaving city life behind and building a ranch with my partner. We’re gentleman farmers you might say. But, he’s a competitive horse racer.

How does this have any significance to what I do with Get Your Shine?

I’ve come to find out, as we’ve grown our family (which consists of horses, goats, a mini donkey, dogs, puppies and cats, a mini pony, a mini cow, etc.), that raising these farm animals is similar to the work I do with leaders.

The same way I need to be intentional with how I communicate with a 1400 pound horse to get it to perform however I need it to, is similar to the confidence and direct, yet kind, communication I use with powerful leaders to get them to grow.

When I show animals new ways to do things, I’m attempting to make their experience more successful (where they eat, how they move around on the property, the trust they give me). However, I’ve found that even when they do things the new ways and have a better experience, they’re quick to go back to old or familiar habits. There’s a thing a veterinarian friend of mine shared with me called Fear Threshold, which horses exhibit. Where their threshold for something is only so great, and when it’s met, their fear kicks in and they run. Leaders and people in general are similar — we’re quick to go back to old habits if what we’re trying to change requires too much focus or work. Even if we know the new thing we’re doing is for the better, ‘familiar’ often pulls us back.

When it comes to the people I work with, I know it’s not easy work to rewire how we communicate. But when we work on being more intentional in the way we communicate with ourselves, it makes how we communicate with others more intentional, and thus, more effective, and helps us to be more successful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A mistake I made relates back to a slogan I remember my middle school had when they were putting in a new recreational field — “If you build it they will come.”

I love what’s behind the idea. Possibility and confidence. But, you can’t simply write some books and put some courses online and expect the doors to be flooded. It takes a lot of work. And even when you think you’re done, you’ve only just begun.

When I started I thought — put out this workbook and everyone will buy it. Ha! Thankfully my strategy didn’t have me buying thousands of copies that I needed to try and sell. Overtime as people learn more about me or I find ways to integrate the book into engagements, I see that I was right in my process of creating it. But it’s funny looking back thinking — this will be flying off the shelves.

The lesson I get from this comes from perseverance and knowing that the foundation you build is important for strength, but the structure you create on top of it and seek to fill has many textures, lots of details, and takes time.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

I recently did an interview and they called me the king of positivity. I don’t know…maybe I can get down with prince. Kidding. The fact that someone saw me in that regard is quite humbling. We put a bunch of content out on social media and through our email lists. And I’ve created products like the Shine Dice™ to help prescribe a daily dose of shine to people in unique packaging (a pill bottle), to remind us that it’s the way we intentionally communicate with ourselves that can be our own medicine. So, helping people be more positive and even more importantly, smile more, is a big part of the impact I seek.

Currently, we have a program called Get Your Shine Awards that helps people send free awards to their peers to recognize them for incredible accomplishments. The hope is that the receivers smile when they realize how much their hard work and dedication has helped them to be seen and appreciated. It will also bring joy to the people who sent the awards, knowing they did one more kind deed that positively impacts someone else’s happiness.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I had been coaching a CEO, and my intuition was telling me that their time in the role was coming to an end. Not because they weren’t a good person or dedicated to their role, but I had them reflect a bit on who they were and what they wanted. I had them get to a place to where they could speak intentionally with themselves. I then had them do the same for the organization and the board they answered to. When they went in for their meeting that ultimately became the meeting that decided they would exit, they came out of it with confidence. They knew who they were and also knew they weren’t the right person for the role anymore. They went into the meeting and were able to be intentional about what they stood for and wanted. They also found comfort in it. Ultimately, they went on to discover more about who they were so they could be an even better leader and find success beyond the role that wasn’t really right for them.

Another is a group of people. Young children actually. My children’s book Radiant Ruth the Rhino was gifted by a mother to her daughter’s teacher. The teacher happened to be the literary sponsor for the school and loved the book and decided to use it for lesson planning. Radiant Ruth has a phrase she repeats often, “I spark a spark I shine,” to promote the ideas of possibility, positivity, and flexibility in thought. The children created an amazing gift for me that recognized their thoughts on kindness as a result of reading this book.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Be more intentional communicators. Speak with purpose and integrity. Dishonestly and self-gain without regard for others needs to stop. Leading with empathy and emotional intelligence is key to a successful future.

Our country is going through a moment that sheds a lot of light on the importance of intentional communication. We need to shift the energy of what is tearing us apart to bring us back together. We need to get our shine back.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership to me goes back to some of the ways I define shine. Excellence — an ability to drive high performance in self and those you lead. Empathy — leveraging emotional intelligence to influence those you lead to thrive and enjoy doing it. And, like the work I do with companies on creating cultures that shine, leadership must involve a level of accountability and collaboration; not everything will be a win but conscientiousness and dedication are key. It’s also important to recognize the power of each other’s strengths and finding a way to have 1 + 1 = 3.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) There may be many ideas you have now that might be too premature for the moment, so write them all down and wait for the moment when they’re ready to be actioned.

Trend setters are not only in the fashion industry. The innovation curve has early adopters after those who innovate and it’s not till later in the curve that most people adopt new ideas. So when you’re innovating, you’re far ahead of most people. Sometimes, depending on what it is — maybe a new product idea — you could be well ahead of where the consumer is, and waiting just slightly longer to put your full power (maybe that’s money) behind it might meet them in a better moment.

2) Having everything together isn’t worth focusing on till you’re likely in your 30’s. Don’t waste your time, but use every ounce of it to explore who you are and what you want.

I feel as though I got lucky with this one. I felt the pressure to “succeed” in my 20’s, but I knew to take risks. Those risks make me stronger today, but had someone given me more permission to not worry so much, maybe I would’ve taken even bigger risks.

3) There is a job for anything so take the time to explore the options.

You can truly create your future. If you’re willing to dream, and even more willing to not stop trying, you can find a place for yourself and what you want to do somewhere on this planet.

I’ve shared in my workbook and across social that my nana used to say to me, “you must believe to achieve.” That message has had a huge impact on me. But I would like to up-level it to, “if you’re able to believe it and then to see it, you can create it and succeed.”

4) Start investing the minute you get your first paycheck, maybe in life insurance that you can access in a handful of years.

When my financial advisor showed me where I could’ve been at had I started soon, it hurt. So, if you’re young, or even if you feel like you’ve missed the moment, the moment isn’t missed, but get on it and start investing.

5) Wear more sunscreen.

Good moisturizers are expensive.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think if everyone got a small planter and some seeds, and we all planted them at the same moment, followed the same directions, and did the same things, we’d realize that some plants blossom quicker, some take some new seeds to grow, some grow tall, others grow wide. However each person’s would grow, something would eventually sprout and have a life ahead of it. The way we intentionally communicate with ourselves and others will create success for our growth, just like the water we use to get the plant to blossom.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Words are things, I’m convinced… Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. I think they get on the walls, they get in your wallpaper, they get in your rugs, in your upholstery, in your clothes. And, finally, into you.” — Maya Angelou

The older I get the more meaning this has. The way we speak to ourselves dictates the way we speak to others — and I’m not simply speaking about only the words that actually come out of our mouths. Our bodies also have a language, and give off energy. It all comes back to what we are saying to ourselves, and at the root of it are words. I feel that it’s important to be intentional with the ones you use.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Clive Davis. As I mentioned earlier about my dream and interaction with Whitney Houston, I think he’d appreciate it. Beyond that, I admire his ability to create people’s destiny. He has an amazing ability to recognize the power of someone’s talent, and then use the right combination of words and music and their voice to create icons that have had huge impacts on others. He, to me, is someone that helps people spark. That’s what I’m in the business of doing, so I’d love to hear from him about the moments in his life where simply one spark made the difference and what unintentional and perfect outcomes they had.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@ajsarcione across all platforms, and email me if you’d like to chat,